Wednesday, September 04, 2013

So Much DOMA News!

It is like every time I look at Facebook, I see something else related to the demise of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

Much of it is good news. Just the other day, the IRS announced that it would recognize the place of celebration rather than the place of residence for filing income taxes. That means that even if my wife and I were still residents of Virginia, we could file our federal taxes as married.

But of course, we'd still have to file our state taxes separately. I predict some headaches where that is concerned.

Health and Human Services announced that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives. New Mexico counties willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples are popping up like popcorn. Some in Pennsylvania too. The Secretary for Veterans Affairs announced that same-sex spouses would NOT be eligible for benefits, and a federal judge promptly issued an injunction. Even my beloved home state of South Carolina is getting sued to recognize a couple's legal marriage!

But it is not all good news.

The Texas National Guard is still refusing to extend benefits to married same-sex couples despite a Pentagon directive to do so.

And there are still challenges for some of us serving abroad. An article in the Washington Post talks about some of those challenges, such as dealing with antiquated Status of Forces agreements that don't recognize marriage equality. One married couple in Japan is unable to live together because they can't get a visa for the non-employee husband. And work-arounds have proven too cumbersome.

Even for those of us in the State Department, which has been the most forward-leaning of the federal agencies thanks in no small part to the efforts of former Secretary of State Clinton, sometimes have problems. Only about a quarter of the posts where we serve will give diplomatic visas to same-sex spouses of Foreign Service personnel. In the rest, we have to come up with work arounds of be separated for as long as three years. And how hard to push a country to recognize a relationship and give diplomatic status to a spouse can depend on everything from unrelated political issues to the willingness of the leadership at post to be helpful.

My wife and I have been lucky. We have had excellent Ambassadors who recognized our marriage. And even if we hadn't, because we are both officers, we come with our own diplomatic immunity. So we don't have to rely on a country's willingness to recognize our marriage in order to be together (we just have to be able to get tandem assignments...but that is a whole other issue that doesn't relate to our being a same-sex couple as much as to our being married employees...we share that headache with our straight tandem-couple colleagues!).

Did I mention it is bidding season....

Anyway, it seems like each day brings a new thing to be thankful for even if each week shows us there are still battles to be fought.

And they will be fought. And won.

5 comments:

Lucha Story said...

Hi! I've been reading your blog for a while, and love it. Thanks for writing.

I'm a foreign service hopeful with a same-sex partner, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on what you said about only a quarter of posts granting visas for same-sex partners without some kind of work-around. What kinds of work-arounds exist? And are they easy to get? I'm guessing it would be a job for the spouse with the embassy, is that right? I've been wondering about this issue for a while, but haven't been able to find any information online. Is this something that would be a major problem for us? I can't imagine being separated for 2-3 years.

Thank you for sharing your life with your readers; you have no idea how awesome it is to read a blog about the Foreign Service with an LGBT perspective!

Robyn Ann Jane Alice McCutcheon said...

May bidding season be stress-free and give you both the postings you want!

Although not strictly related, another thing that remains post-DOMA is the "transgender exclusion" in FEHB plans. We're working on that. . . .

Keith Turner said...

I am now living in Sweden because at the time that my soon to be husband's visa expired the ruling on DOMA had not been handed down. It was not possible for him to stay in the United States so we both moved to Sweden with plans to stay here for a couple of years. Things certainly have changed and when we return to the United States he will be able to get a visa and a work permit. I met a foreign service employee who is also in a same sex relationship stationed at the Swedish Embassy. Coming across your blog just adds more good new to the swiftly changing political landscape. Thanks!

Keith Turner said...

I am now living in Sweden because at the time that my soon to be husband's visa expired the ruling on DOMA had not been handed down. It was not possible for him to stay in the United States so we both moved to Sweden with plans to stay here for a couple of years. Things certainly have changed and when we return to the United States he will be able to get a visa and a work permit. I met a foreign service employee who is also in a same sex relationship stationed at the Swedish Embassy. Coming across your blog just adds more good new to the swiftly changing political landscape. Thanks!

Digger said...

Lucha,

Email me at digger_or_diplomat@hotmail.com and I can chat more about visas and work arounds.

D